Ziggy Gordon's return to Gosford stirred emotions as Western Sydney Wanderers handed Central Coast Mariners their first loss of the A-League season in a grudge encounter on Tuesday night.
Nicolai Muller's all-important goal in the 83rd minute sealed the 1-0 win for the Wanderers as the Mariners bullied them around the field.
But the bulk of the physicality was saved for Gordon, who had played every game of last season with the Mariners but left the club at the 11th hour to join the Wanderers.
His parting shot hurt his former teammates, saying he wanted to play with winners.
On Tuesday night he got the last laugh as the Wanderers went to the top of the A-League table, leaping over the Mariners who had won their first two matches of the season.
"I told Ziggy to cut out all the emotion and just play what's in front of you, because you can get caught up in all the emotion and then you go away from what you're paid to do, which is play football," said Wanderers coach Carl Robinson.
"I thought he was very calm and kept a level head in a difficult place."
Mariners veteran Matt Simon made his feelings known in the first half when a collision with Gordon sent sparks flying between the sides.
The pair clashed in going for the ball but with Gordon on his back, Simon lurched over and delivered a few choice words in his face, pointing his finger to make his feelings obvious for those not in earshot.
Simon avoided being booked for a boot in Gordon's ribs as well, but the incident ramped up the passion in what was already a spirited contest.
Simon walked a fine line with a yellow card towards the end of the first half for an elbow to Keanu Baccus' face and he was subsequently subbed off just after the hour.
"Matt plays Matt's way," Robinson said.
"It doesn't surprise me or surprise the boys.
"You have a young back three today and while it wasn't a surprise to Ziggy, but it was a surprise possibly to young Tass (Mourdoukoutas) and (Mark) Natta, but I thought they handled it very well."
The Mariners looked the better of the teams in the first half despite a fortnight since their last match when they beat Macarthur 1-0.
They began fast putting plenty of pressure on the Wanderers, who had just three days preparation after their 1-1 draw with Sydney FC.
But despite their chances, nothing stuck.
"I'm very disappointed," said Mariners coach Alen Stajcic.
"We left a point or even three points out there tonight."
The Wanderers meet Newcastle next Friday at McDonald Jones Stadium while the Mariners play Sydney FC in Kogarah on Friday night.